Daily Express editor Peter Hill was so convinced by the selling power of printing front page stories about Madelaine McCann that it became his “obsession”, according to one of his former reporters.
Nick Fagge, who worked on the story of the missing girl in 2007, told the Leveson Inquiry it became the only subject Hill was interested in “regardless of how strong the story was”.
The Express Group ended up paying £500,000 in damages to the McCann family for libelous coverage. Another reporter, Padraic Flanagan, said this was borne out of the fact that Portugeuse police stopped communicating with the press, leaving journalists with a “very large vacuum” to fill.
A third, David Pilditch, elaborated on this, denying that the stories were “title-tattle” as information had been taken from the best sources they could find. He said the paper’s London office had been warned about this and left to decide whether the stories were strong enough to run.
Police to give more info on deleted Milly Dowler messages
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police says it aims to provide the Leveson Inquiry with more information about the messages deleted from Milly Dowler’s phone, having claimed it was “unlikely” that journalists were responsible.
The Guardian has since amended all of its online articles on the subject, after News International disputed the theory that it was responsible for giving Milly Dowler’s family “false hope” about the murdered teenager’s circumstances.
The cost of the Leveson Inquiry to the tax payer has also been revealed. According to Press Gazette, the total for the first three months has come to “£855,300 – including £85,000 in accommodation costs alone”.